Gambling Your Life on God
November 1st, 1992 @ 10:50 AM
GAMBLING YOUR LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-1-92 10:50 a.m.
This is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled Gambling Your Life On God. Our text in Philippians chapter 2, at verse 25 following. Paul writes to the Christians in Philippi:
I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, your apostle and leitourgon, your minister of God;
since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
Indeed he was sick unto death; God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I have sorrow upon sorrow.
Therefore I sent him the more urgently, that when you see him again, you may rejoice,
Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem;
because for the work of Christ he was nigh to death, he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.
And in the last chapter, 4, verse18:
Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
Gambling Your Life on God, our text, in the second chapter and the thirtieth verse that we read, "Because for the work of Christ he was nigh to death, not regarding his life" [Philippians 2:30]. Paraboleuomai, paraboleuomai, "to take a risk, to expose oneself to peril," it is a gambling term Paul uses, to stake everything that you have and are and hope to be on a throw of the dice, here to stake everything on the Lord, to bet your life on God. One of the strangest things I ever read, in that day often the Christians were called paraboleugai, from that paraboleuomai. They were called paraboleugai, that is, they were riskers, they were betters on God, they were gamblers on the Lord, betting your life, gambling your life on God.
This Epaphroditus was a pagan, he was a heathen, he was a convert in the Roman colony of Philippi. Epaphroditus, his name means handsome, charming. And it comes from Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love and beauty and sexual attraction. That goddess was universal. In Assyria, she was called Ishtar. In Phoenicia, she was called Astarte. In Egypt, she was called Isis. And in the Roman-Latin language, she was called Venus. Her name, though, almost universally, was known as Aphrodite, from aphros, sea foam, she was supposed to have risen out of the sea.
Beautiful statues of her are found all over that ancient civilized world. The most famous, of course, is that Venus DeMilo in the Louvre in Paris, Venus DeMilo, from that little Aegean, little island of Milos, Venus. Greek art and architecture have never been rivaled in the civilized world. That famous temple to Artemis, to Diana, in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In Athens the Parthenon is unrivaled. So, throughout the entire cultural world, Greek literature, Greek philosophy, Greek drama has never been equaled.
But there is a concomitant that is amazing and overwhelming; the most degrading form of worship accompanied that beautiful endowment of art and architecture. For example, in Corinth – and I know many of you have been there – the remains of a gorgeous temple are there on the Acrocorinthus. The goddess Aphrodite, Venus in the Latin, was worshiped by having intercourse with a heirodoulē, a temple slave, a prostitute. There were one thousand of them in that one temple alone. And rich men counted it a measure of devotion to dedicate to that Aphrodite the most beautiful female slave in his possession. Hard to realize, the degradation of the religion of those beautiful, cultural gifted people.
And of course, the children that were born. One of the things that you read, by law, universally, in that civilized world when a baby was born, they had the privilege, if they did not want it, to expose it. That was there word, to expose the child. That is, they were privilege, if they so choose, to take the child and put it out somewhere where wild dogs would eat it. Or, worse still, a family would take the child and cripple it and mutilate it, and as it grew, set it up on a street corner to beg.
You know I was thinking about that, and thinking about us, in our advancement in medical science today we do the same thing. If you don’t want your baby, take it to an abortion clinic, and there by the millions they are destroying, in our culture, and in our society.
So out of that background, this Aphrodite convert became a Christian, Epaphroditus. And he is sent on a mission to Rome by the Christian family and people in Philippi. He is sent with a gift for Paul [Philippians 4:15-18], the only time we have any record of anybody giving anything to the apostle. Philippi did. And in Rome, when Epaphroditus was associated with the apostle, he so gave himself to the work of the Lord, so poured his life into the ministry of Christ and evangelism that he was sick unto death, just poured his strength into that ministry [Philippians 2:27]. And the folks back at home who had sent him heard of his severe illness. And then word came back to Paul and to Epaphroditus of the deep concern of the families in the church of Philippi of his tragic illness.
That means he was ill for a good three months. It’s eight hundred miles from Rome to Philippi. And in that day it took six weeks for them to hear he was sick and six weeks for them at Rome to hear their distress in Philippi. So in answer to that sorrow the apostle Paul wrote this letter that our Bible calls Philippians. Paul wrote that beautiful, beautiful letter of love and concern and compassion, and put it in the hands of Epaphroditus and sent him back to Philippi [Philippians 2:25].
Now, in that letter, and in the passage that we read, Paul writes an appreciation of him that is incomparable. He uses five words to describe him, and they are in an ascending scale. They are a eulogy climaxing in the last, the fifth, word.
The first is adelphos, my brother [Philippians 2:25 NKJV]. The ancient world was a polarized society, and it was sharply divided. There were slaves. There were free men. There were Greeks. There were Romans. There were citizens. There were provincials. There were Jews. There were Gentile dogs. There were aristocrats. There were plebeians. There were civilians. There were soldiers. There were rich. There were poor. The cultural life of the Roman Empire was deeply divided. But something new, the world had never seen it before, there was a fellowship called the church, the ekklēsia. And he was a brother.
I don’t think there is anything in the world comparable to the sweet fellowship in the house of the Lord. No matter who you are you may be seated, as some of us have been in days past, by the richest men in the world and the richest family in the earth, and right by that rich man, the poorest of the poor. Educated, uneducated, all kinds of us here in the church, and we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. No fellowship that mind could imagine equals this beautiful comradeship that we have in the house of God and in the Lord. That’s the first word, adelphos. He’s my brother.
The second word, sunergos, sunergos. He is my fellow worker [Philippians 2:25 NKJV]. Isn’t that amazing? Paul had the vision of Christ Himself that called him into the ministry of the Lord. And he looks upon himself as a fellow worker with this pagan heathen converted out of the worship of Aphrodite. What an amazing thing? Fellow workers in the successful ministries of the Lord.
This third word, sustratiōtēs, my fellow soldier [Philippians 2:25 NKJV]. We are side by side, marching in the kingdom of God and in the army of the Lord.
A fourth word, he is called an apostolos. He’s called an apostle. He’s a messenger from heaven [Philippians 2:25 NKJV]. You send him to me. I send him to you. God sends him to a lost world.
And the fifth one, leitourgos, leitourgos. The word liturgy comes from that, our appearance before God. He’s our leitourgos. That word came from a minister who stood before a forum or before a senate. He was a minister of state. And Paul uses it to describe all of us who stand in the presence of God to minister in His name, to do God’s will and work in the earth.
So, describing Epaphroditus, he speaks of him as one who is gambling his life on God. And to my amazement, in chapter 4, and verse18, Paul says that is well pleasing to the Lord [Philippians 4:18]. How could a man who gambles his life on God, how could that be well pleasing and wise and prudent? How could it be?
Well, as I read the Bible, I just come across some of the most amazing instances of that. When God says, for three and a half years there will be no rain and drought and want pervaded the whole earth [James 5:17], God sent Elijah to Sidon, to Zarephath, and to a widow-woman. The Bible calls her a widow-woman. And Elijah comes into her presence and asks for food [1 Kings 17:8-11].
She replies, "I have nothing but a little left in a meal barrel and a little oil in a cruse. And I am preparing to prepare that for me and my son, then we will die."
And Elijah says, "You prepare that for me."
She does it, nothing beyond except to die! She prepares it for Elijah, the man of God, and she bets her life on the Lord. For three and a half years until it rained the barrel of meal did not waste and the cruse of oil did not fail [1 Kings 17:12-16]. God took care of her [1 Kings 17].
All right. Out of the New Testament; Jesus sits over against the treasury, and he watches the people give to the Lord. And there comes in a poor widow woman again. And she gives into the treasury of the Lord two mites. And Jesus said, "That is all of her living everything that she had" [Mark 12:41-44]. Gambling on God, trusting in the Lord, gave to God everything that she had.
I was meandering around over there in Jerusalem. And some of those antiquarians, digging way down there in the rubble and debris of that city, there is a piece, coined back there, that’s about a fifty-cent one. And then I got another one there. And there’s one, I’d say, that would be about a quarter. And then I got another one, and this is called a mite. This is a mite. It is worth one-eighth of a cent, that little mite. You know, this is just crazy on my part: that could have been one of the two mites that she gave in the treasury of the Lord, that little thing there. But she gave everything she had, two little mites, and gambled on God, that God would take care of her.
On the other side I was reading this week of a great manufacturer here in America. He owed two hundred thousand dollars on his company. And attending church, thought not to reply or respond. He owed two hundred thousand dollars, how could he? And as he sat there in the pew he began thinking about his debtors? And he owed them. Then it came to his heart; his first creditor was God. He owed God.
And as he sat there in the church, he said, "I will change my life. I will first pay my debt to God, and then trust God that I pay my other creditors," gambling his company and his whole life and fortune on God. You know the rest of the story? Not only did he pay God, he paid all of his creditors, and the Lord aboundingly blessed his company, his manufacturing concerns; gambling your life on God.
Queen Elizabeth I, one time said to a merchantman in London, "I want you to go across the sea to a colony, and there do my business in that colony."
And the merchantman replied, "Your Honor, Your Majesty, while I’m gone my business will fail!"
And Queen Elizabeth said to the merchantman, "You go and you take care of my business, and I’ll take care of yours."
He left. And when he had accomplished his assignment in the colony of Britain across the sea and came back to London, under the tutelage and surveillance and encouragement of Queen Elizabeth, his company flourished and grew astronomically. You take care of God’s business and God will take care of your business; gambling all you have on God.
My heavenly Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, and silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.
["A Child of the King," by Harriet E. Buell, 1877]
And when I gamble my life and fortune on God, the Lord aboundingly responds and blesses from heaven.
What do you think of a man like Epaphroditus who stakes everything on God? What do you think about him? There are men, world without end, who do that on something. One day, here in our church, came a man from afar, from the west, a cattleman. His father had died, and he was bringing his father here to Dallas to be buried and wanted me to bury him.
So I asked the son, "Your father a cattleman?" And he described his vast ranch and his innumerable heads of cattle. So I asked him, since I was going to bury him, I said, "Was your father a Christian?"
"Well, was he a church member?"
Then, the son explained to me, "You see," he said, "my father was so busy with his cattle and with his ranch, he never had time for God."
Bah! I run into that all the time. The man who heads our Cowboys openly said, and it was published, "He was so busy and engrossed with his Cowboys he never had time for God, never had time for the church." That is universal; engrossed in something else other than God.
Well, what do you think of Epaphroditus who bet everything he had on the Lord? [Philippians 2:25-27] The disdainful Epicurean would say he lost. The infidel stoic would say he lost. Mocking unbelievers would say he lost. Greedy materialists would say he lost. Even humanist professors would say he lost. He gambled everything on God and he lost.
But some of us would say he won. He may have lost his possessions, confiscated. He may have lost his house, hunted down. He may even have even lost his life, a martyr. But had he lost his life, he would have received a martyr’s crown. Had he lost his house he would have had one made without hands in heaven! [2 Corinthians 5:1] And had he lost everything his everything in this world, he would have received from Jesus, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the kingdom and the house of your Lord" [Matthew 25:23]; gambling your life on God.
In that Philippian letter, Paul writes in chapter 1, verse 21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. If for me to live is money, to die is a loss. If for me to live is pleasure, to die is a loss. If for me to live is this world, to die is a loss. If for me to live is self, to die is a loss. But if for me to live is Christ, to die is a gain [Philippians 1:21], gambling your life on God.
May I take just a closing moment to describe something in our church? Right there, on that second seat, right there, year after year, sat a little maiden woman, poor as the poorest. With the help of the church I took care of her all of her life. I got her a place to live, on Bryan Street, next to us. When she was hurt in a three-car accident, I took care of her. And when she became unable to take care of herself in her age, we took care of her. Then she died.
Orville Groener, who was the treasurer of the Annuity Board, I asked Orville Groener, our sweet deacon, you go to the house on Bryan Street, go upstairs and take what clothing she might have and give to the missions and dispose of the rest of their things. And Orville called me and he said, "Preacher, pastor, I have found a shoebox. And on the inside of that shoebox I have found thirty-five thousand dollars in government bonds."
I was overwhelmed.
And he said, "Pastor, in the box are two wills. When she and her brother were alive, she willed everything to our church. And after he died, she wrote a second will. And she has willed everything to our dear church."
What that little lady did was, she took everything she had, everything she had and safely set it aside and kept it for our dear church, for our dear church. And over there across the street, in that building, those doors are dedicated to her. If you read the inscription above it, "In Memory of Maria Dunn, She gave her all to the Lord." And I took the thirty-five thousand dollars due, and built our place at Mount Lebanon where our young people still are blessed every summer and through the days of the years as they go out to our encampment at Mount Lebanon. She gave everything she had to God.
That is an infinite reward beyond anything we could ever know. That will be hers forever in heaven; betting her life on God, gambling her life on God then giving everything she had to the Lord.
Sweet people, you can’t lose with God. You take care of His business and He will take care of yours. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21].
GAMBLING YOUR LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Philippians 2:25-30, 4:18-19
A. Paraboleuomai – gambler’s term meaning to bet your life, stake everything on a throw, to expose oneself to peril
B. In that day often Christians were called paraboleugai – they were riskers, betters on God
II. The pagan convert – Epaphroditus
A. Saved out of gross idolatry
1. Named for Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility
2.Statues of her found all over the world; most famous the Venus De Milo
3. Greek art, architecture, literature, philosophy, drama never equaled
4. Degraded form of worship accompanied that endowment of art and architecture
5. Temple prostitution, exposure of unwanted children
B. His mission to Rome from Philippi
1. Sent with a gift for Paul
2. In Rome, involved so heavily in the work for Christ he became "sick unto death"(Philippians 2:27)
3. Sent back home with this letter of love and appreciation
C. Paul’s written appreciation of him – five words in an ascending scale
1. Adelphos – "my brother"
2. Sunergos – "my fellow worker"
3. Sustratiotes – "my fellow soldier"
4. Apostolos – "apostle"
5. Leitourgos – a minister who stands before the seat of government
III. Gambling his life on God
A. How could that be well-pleasing, wise, prudent?
1. Widow of Zarephath and Elijah – the barrel of meal and cruse of oil (1 Kings 17:7-16)
2. The widow who gave all she had, two mites (Mark 12:41-44)
3. American manufacturer who owed $200,000 – realized his first creditor was God
B. The ableness of God to bless – His "riches in glory"
1. Queen Elizabeth I taking care of merchantman’s business while he took care of her business abroad
2. Poem, "A Child of the King"
IV. What do you think of a man like Epaphroditus, staking everything on God?
A. Men do that on many things
C. Some of us would say he won
1. May have lost possessions, house, and life, but would have received from Jesus the martyr’s crown, a house not made with hands, and the welcome of Jesus(Matthew 25:21)
D. To live is Christ, and to die is a gain(Philippians 1:21)
1. Mariah Dunst